She is shaped like an athletic amphora, a black Spartan vessel of elegance and fury.
Minutes in, she goes a capella; no guitar roulades needed to accompany her. She’s a force of nature and she stands alone, except that she doesn’t stand for a moment.
She is boyish and wears hip-hugging pants, but she is woman – oh so woman because two years ago she was still a girl, one can sense it, but she’s crossed into womanhood and is firmly in it – yet there is no dress, no folds, no castañedas, even, and if they are there, they’re tiny, concealed in her palms, and even the movements of the arms are different: there’s less waving about and self-hugging and more pure output of energy. How majestically and scarily controlled it is.
She could rightly be called a reactor; she is that incandescent; except that it’s the wrong word, because she doesn’t react – she creates; creates a maelstrom. She’s a black hole, with her own event horizon and firewall that vaporizes you as you breach it. She requires her own vocabulary, she is that much of a phenomenon, and in the absence of it, we’re borrowing from the discipline that attempts to understand stars, galaxies and universes – physics.
And she is physical beyond theory, but in the gossamer way of a tungsten filament, thin and burning and giving off blinding light. At times she stomps, lightning-quickly, from the knees, with pronated shins, so that she seems a child, a beautiful, severe girl in black, with a crown of hair, a bell of hair… And then she throws her head back and around with a checked violence, a great nuclear nanosecond of release, – and everything escalates beyond possibility or ability to keep up.
We are now at another level of concentration – on her and her new flamenco, and at that level she’s indifferent to everything around her except for rhythm and the exquisite torment of the performance – the creation of high art in real time; indifferent to everything but indifference; she won’t tolerate it! She will draw you in and make you care, make you stop breathing you’re so drawn in.
And then she slows it down by degrees, reducing the rhythm from a proud, rolling rage to a strict, strict staccato, a pitter-patter, and then attenuated rocking caresses of the stage with her exquisitely small, heartbreakingly heeled leather shoes.
She tictocs minutely.
She is 17 years old.
This year she turns 70, a contented grandmother, her shooting star of a career long behind her.
The tragedy is that we have precious little of her talent to console ourselves with. The miracle is that Antonia Singla Contreras – La Singla – one of the great flamenco dancers of modernity, a hurricane of grace and uniquely feminine power, was brought into this world a deaf-mute. La Múa the neighborhood kids used to call her.
Now, tell me: is this a cruel place? Or is it a wonderful world after all?